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Cold Weather Sports and UV Eye Protection

Posted on December 23rd, 2016

When winter rolls in, cozying up by the fireplace is wonderful in the evening, but take full advantage of daylight hours by snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, or doing another exciting outdoor activity. Staying active is a great way to keep warm when temperatures drop sub-zero, but there are a few precautions that you should take to optimize eye health.

The sun’s rays may be strongest during the summer, but when you’re in the middle of a winter wonderland you can expect the snow to reflect 85 to 90% of the sun’s rays. UV rays can even permeate the clouds, scattering in all directions, and enter the eye. 

There are two types of ultraviolet rays that affect us: UVA and UVB. UVB is the most damaging of the pair, and is the main cause of sunburn. UVB is also a contributing factor in the development of skin cancer. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and are more prevalent than UVB rays, but they’re also less intense. UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin tissue and contribute to aging and wrinkles. As many winter activities take us up into the mountains, people often notice that the sun seems particularly intense. The thinner air at higher altitudes means that there are fewer particles in the air to deflect and absorb UV light. A 2002 World Health Organization report states that for every 300-metre gain in elevation, UV exposure increases between 4 and 10%. 

Spending a day outside in the winter sun can result in photokeratitis, which is a sunburn on the cornea and whites of the eye. UV rays from the sky and snow damage the surface cells of the eye, which die and shed off. Some hours after sun exposure, photokeratitis manifests itself as a dry and burning feeling as well as a sensitivity to light. Serious cases of photokeratitis require antibiotics to prevent infection, and subsequently will clear up in a few days. Of course, we’d prefer not to deal with such problems in the first place, especially since they are easily preventable.

A good pair of UV-protective sunglasses or prescription glasses with a UV coating should be adequate to protect your eyes from wintertime UV. Glasses with a close wraparound style will provide better coverage from all angles. Polarized glasses do the same, but with the added benefit of preventing glare. FYidoctors has a wide variety of glasses and sunglasses in a range of price options. Select FYidoctors locations* can even custom order prescription snowboard and ski goggles, ensuring you always have crystal clear vision when on the mountain.

Slide on by to find the eyewear that will keep your vision in tip top shape this winter.